Last year was a harsh one for advertising, with budgets cut and clients working their agencies harder than ever. But how has that affected the graduates forging careers in a competitive field?
In February 2003, Campaign introduced five graduate trainees whose early careers we will be following. One year on, one is leaving the industry for management consultancy, one is enjoying a stint in lobbying and the other three are working to establish themselves, seemingly undaunted by low pay and tough conditions.
Money aside, our graduates said feeling valued, stretched and part of a team was one of the most important factors in their desire to succeed in advertising. The IPA's director of training and development, Anne Murray-Chatterton, says she understands why some graduates decide to look elsewhere for jobs. She says the current climate means agencies keep a tighter rein on newbies as it's too risky to let them "run" on their own too soon.
She acknowledges that salary is also an issue. However, she stresses that most agencies are pushing hard to improve their people management skills. "They take it seriously, both in day-to-day management and the ways in which people are appraised," she says. "Workshops in people management are thriving, but there are always spaces on a dedicated course run for board directors as part of IPA 6 - and that should change," she adds.
Nick Grime, a consultant at the recruitment company Jan Mac, says 18 months to two years into their first job is when he normally sees graduates looking for their second one. "If they're from a big agency, they're usually looking for the autonomy, exposure and entrepreneurial spirit which you find in smaller shops," he explains. "If they've been working somewhere smaller, they want the structure, scale and the bigger brands of a larger outfit," he adds. "Most agencies are well aware of the need to engage their graduates - but it's about the individuals too."
DOMINIC BRADFIELD - DLKW
A year on from joining Delaney Lund Knox Warren & Partners, Dominic Bradfield is glad he works in a smaller, close-knit agency and one that has regularly topped the new-business league in Campaign. "I was thrown in at the deep end, which is what I wanted." Bradfield, now an account manager, continues to work on the agency's Royal Bank of Scotland and COI Communications Sexual Health accounts, but has flexed his muscles on various pitches this year. He led a winning pitch for further COI work (for the Department of Education), working with Naked and Draft. It's clear that he's developed a taste for success.
"The learning curve has been enormous," he says, adding that for him, the most challenging task he's had is learning how to manage his time and work. "Because of the way the agency is structured, you could find yourself doing absolutely anything - from planning and strategy, to costing, to briefing creative teams. It's great to have that flexibility and sense of teamwork, but it also comes with a responsibility to manage it properly. And you have to keep performing, all the time," he stresses.
He's frustrated by the stereotyping he encounters within advertising in general, musing: "Why is it that if you're an account person, everyone assumes you carry the bags and pamper the client? And that myth about creatives being stroppy - what's that all about?" Similarly, he has yet to be convinced that working in adland, at his level at least, is glamorous.
"Exciting, yes. Glamorous, no!" he laughs.
The best thing about his year? "Working on the pitch for the Olympics 2012, definitely," he says. "We didn't win, but it was a brilliant opportunity." And I got to use my degree in geography to work on the strategy," he smiles.
SARAH-JANE FLEMING - WALKER MEDIA
Fleming has spent the past year at Walker Media enjoying working within a smaller company, forging good relationships with clients and workmates and getting stuck into the nitty-gritty of planning and buying.
But now she's taking her learning and experience elsewhere, after a soul-searching couple of months deciding whether to continue within the industry.
Although she admits it's a bit of a turnaround, Fleming has landed a job at the consultancy company Accenture, and is relishing the chance to push herself harder and "make my brain work".
While she's enjoyed the buzz of the media industry and admits that she'll probably miss the camaraderie of office life when she's working in-house for clients at Accenture, Fleming is adamant that she's making the right decision. And what's more, she's convinced that what she's learned at Walker Media will be invaluable to her in her new, admittedly more lucrative, job. "I'd never have had the confidence and experience to make this change without working here," she enthuses.
Although she was trusted enough to work unsupervised on business such as Capri-Sun, developing relationships with clients and garnering some useful negotiating skills, she's had some hard, at times boring, graft to contend with too. Her worst hour came when she found herself buried in data input. "I've never been one to sit and moan about my job - I decided to question what I was actually doing, and then move constructively from there," she says.
She says that her impatient nature won't have helped her feeling of dissatisfaction, but also admits that money was also a factor. "I started to wonder whether I was actually worth more than the £19,000 I earn," she explains.
JOE HEATH - WPP FELLOWSHIP
Even a 24-hour delay on his flight from Washington DC can't dampen the enthusiasm Joe Heath has for his placement job at a WPP-owned company of lobbyists in the heart of America's political landscape.
After continuing to work on News International, and largely running the production and selling of a cinema ad for The Times' sponsorship of the London Film Festival, he left Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R in September 2003. He moved to the US to take a job at Burson-Marsteller, and admits that political lobbying is "a little bit different from advertising".
Heath originally thought the next stage of his three-year fellowship would take him to a planning role in New York, but when the opportunity came up in Washington, he jumped at it. "It was quite intimidating. I went in as a manager and it was a real contrast from the open-plan agency environment of RKCR. I had my own office with my name on the door," he says.
The agency lobbies the Senate on behalf of several clients, and Heath works for Charlie Black, a chief Republican strategist and adviser to President George Bush. "I feel incredibly lucky, and nurtured," Heath says. "I'm working for the guy who ran Ronald Reagan's election campaign - it doesn't get more involved than that." The timing's been pretty good too. The day Saddam Hussein was captured was a "blur of activity" for Heath.
Within two weeks, Heath faced the challenge of organising an event in Congress for one of the agency's clients. "I was doing the catering, inviting the people, booking the space. Basically, it was all down to me and it was pretty scary," he admits. He's also responsible for monitoring on behalf of his clients, which entails trailing certain issues and keeping up to speed with the complications of the US political system.
A self-effacing character, Heath not only had to manage his new role, but also his peer group, some of whom had been with the company eight years before reaching a similar position. "I'm happy to stuff envelopes and do donkey work," he admits. "It's been important to me to get on with people there and I guess that's what makes a good lobbyist too."
JAMES MORRIS - TBWA LONDON
"I'm lucky to be working in a meritocracy," Morris, who has spent his year developing skills not just as an account handler, but also as a planner, says.
The only graduate with such a hybrid role, he was encouraged to diversify by his managers, and is glad he took up the challenge. He now works as an account handler on PlayStation, a planner on Labour, and did a bit of both on Holsten. "Clients expect agencies to be less rigid in structure, without compromising on their skills. Hopefully, this will enable me to be more flexible," he says.
Such management support has also been an important part of his development, he says. "They must be able to delegate - if they can't, then you're sunk," he says, although he is aware that in difficult times inexperienced staff are the last people an agency wants clients to see. However, Morris has unsupervised contact with clients at PlayStation, and has also been involved in pitches, such as TBWA's unsuccessful bid for Woolworths. "It'll be great to work on a pitch when you're not on the bottom rung," he laughs.
Morris is also involved in an agency think tank - the Future Group - which discusses ways that the agency will move forward. It puts him into closer contact with all levels of staff, including the chief executive, Andrew McGuinness.
He's aware of how paltry his pay-packet seems next to mates who are now bankers or accountants, but is spurred on by what he says is a "brilliant" job. "No-one joins advertising to make money, at first, anyway - it's about learning the ropes, feeling constantly stretched and loving the creative process," he says.
Challenges for next year include more client contact and pitches - he'd also like to try working on placement at a client, to "really understand everything about them".
SAM D'AMATO - OMD UK
"I've come on lots, but there's still so much to learn," D'Amato smiles, summing up his past year at OMD. For a start, as an account manager, he's had exposure to two of OMD's biggest clients, Hasbro and Walkers, which has fulfilled an ambition sparked when he founded an advertising-funded free paper at university.
He's found the intricacies of the many Hasbro accounts fascinating, and in the build-up to Christmas they were a good test of his stamina. Exposure to Walkers has been "brilliant", giving him a real insight into how big, high-spending brands work.
Now with some of his own responsibility over some parts of the Hasbro account, D'Amato feels happy to have developed the first shoots of autonomy.
That was helped along when his mentor left the agency suddenly and D'Amato found himself doing his work too.
The support of his seniors and peers has been crucial to his development, he says. "I've never felt abandoned. The team is really important, and the management you receive in your first job is crucial, but so is the way you push yourself forward," he stresses.
While D'Amato feels rewarded, challenged and respected, he's not that impressed with the financial side of it - he's had one small rise since starting on £17k. "Everyone's after more money, aren't they?" he laughs, before admitting that during tougher times it's difficult to pay more.
But he thinks top earners within the industry are worth every penny. His challenges for the next year are working on more pitches and getting closer to clients. "I think I'm on the right track," he says. "But I'm still learning."